A former member of the U.S. Air Force was sentenced to 35 years in prison for trying to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh was an Air Force avionics instrument system specialist from 1986-1990 and worked as an airplane mechanic for companies in the U.S. and the Middle East.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis reportedly applauded Pugh’s military service while meting out the long sentence, but noted it was “a long time ago” and that Pugh’s decision to join ISIS is “a very sad thing.”
Court records trace Pugh’s radicalization to 2013, when he was working with Kalitta Air, an air transportation company in Dubai. A co-worker saw Pugh watching jihadi content online, including images accompanied by messages such as, “If fighting for my religious freedom makes me a terrorist, I am a terrorist.”
In late 2014, he made several comments supporting ISIS to his co-workers while working with a charter airline company in Kuwait City. He told a co-worker about an ISIS advertisement “looking for pilots and mechanics, and they are paying big salaries.”
Computer records show Pugh started extensively viewing and downloading ISIS propaganda videos in late 2014 and early 2015, searching for ways to travel to Syria to join ISIS. A search of Pugh’s laptop revealed searches for “borders controlled by Islamic state,” ISIS propaganda videos such as “Flames of War” and “Virtues of Seeking Martyrdom” and execution videos.
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